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Thread: What is the oldest boat ever to complete the SSS SHTP?

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by sleddog View Post
    Attachment 6281

    This photo of POLARIS shows the "Mitchell Zap" sailmakers logo near the clews. Punky Mitchell was a very good Star sailor of the 60's and made his own sails. His small sail loft was upstairs where the Hood Loft is now in Sausalito. Commodore Tompkins had rigged a test mast on the roof, and mid morning, before the breeze made up, you could often see spinnakers being tested on the roof.

    Punky ended up selling his loft to Tom Blackaller and Steve Taft and it became a North Sails branch loft. John Berry Marine Hardware was downstairs and next door.

    Punky Mitchell, and Star class friends who gathered at his loft, revolutionized the Star when they discovered, in the big breeze of SF Bay, a Star was fastest with extreme rake in the mast, so much so the tip of the boom lay nearly on deck.

    This changed crewing a Star, as the skipper, when tacking, could no longer slide over the top of the tiller but had to go under on a tack.

    All modern Stars now sail with max rake, so the boom tip is just inches above the deck at the transom.

    Attachment 6282

    Can anyone tell me what is older: The Starboat, or POLARIS?. They are both older than a century. But there are now over 6,000 Stars built and only one POLARIS.

    Without cheating I am going to say Polars is older. I said on her as a kid when Tom list owned her.

  2. #12
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    Sep 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Rogers View Post
    Without cheating I am going to say Polars is older. I sailed on her as a kid when Tom list owned her.
    Hi Ian,

    In the dim past, the Star's common ancestor was the New Haven Sharpie, which can be traced back to 1835. They had two masts with leg-of-mutton sails, but no jib. Next came the Nonpareil Sharpie, built in 1880. It had a slight V bottom, another step toward the Star hull. All of these little boats, up to this point, had centerboards. The type was not considered especially adaptable for racing, nevertheless, several more or less unsuccessful attempts were made in that direction. There was the Mascot of 1879, a big lumbering craft with little speed. Then the Question, built in 1895, and the Departure which appeared in 1896 and was designed by William Gardner to beat the Newport 30's. It was able to do so in a breeze or with plenty of reaching, but not otherwise. The Departure has straight sides, a chine and a fin keel. It is the last connecting link, in an unbroken chain, from the primitive log canoe to the Bug class, the Star's immediate predecessor and prototype.

    Francis Sweisguth (1882-1970), a draftsman for William Gardner, was the true designer and developer of the Star. The 17' Bug, an earlier and smaller version of the Star with a 150 pound keel, had proven too small and wet for comfortable (!) racing after being launched in 1906 and raced in waters around New York City and Long Island.

    Thus was birthed the Star Class in 1910-1911. During the winter of 1910-1911 twenty-two Star boats were built by Ike Smith of Port Washington, NY, for a Long Island Sound group of racing sailors. Francis Sweisguth was one of the original owners of the Star Class yachts built by Smith, and Sweisguth owned Star # 6 from 1911 to 1915.

    The Star, as originally drawn by Sweisguth, was a gaff rigged boat with a long boom, typical for racing boats of the day. The luff of the mainsail was 24"11" as opposed to 30’6" now used on the modern Star rig. The then foot of the mainsail was 18’4" as opposed to current 14’7". As the Star Class continued to grow and develop during the late 1910’s and early 1920’s it became clear that the rig should be modernized. The first step was to change the rig from a gaff rig to Marconi. This changeover occurred gradually during the early 1920’s. The same mainsail could be used on either rig....

    Interestingly, when Lowell North was the best Star sailor in the world, having won 4 World Championships, he was an advocate for a radical change to the Star design: eliminate the bulb keel for a daggerboard and go with both skipper and crew on traps. Whoa!

    Newport Harbor (CA) sponsored the move from wood to fiberglass Stars in 1962, and the Star Class, going strong after 111 years, remains the pinnacle of One Design keelboat competition. Even John F. Kennedy and younger brother Bobby Kennedy raced Stars back in the day.

    But....could POLARIS, on which you sailed as a kid, be older than the Star?

    TBC
    Last edited by sleddog; 02-28-2021 at 05:48 PM.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sleddog View Post
    Hi Ian,
    But....could POLARIS, on which you sailed as a kid, be older than the Star?
    TBC
    I am not one to dispute Spaulding Marine Center in Sausalito "which maintains a fleet of restored or newly built wooden sailboats and rowboats available to students at the Center and to the public. The 34-foot gaff rigged sailboat, POLARIS, a carvel-built (fir planks butted edge to edge on oak ribs) pumpkinseed sloop, which was built on San Francisco Bay in 1906, is currently available for skippered sails at the Center."

    If the Star Class was launched in 1911, and POLARIS in 1906, POLARIS is older by five years. And after FREDA, she likely is the second oldest boat sailing SF Bay.

    Interesting, at some point in her life, POLARIS was converted from centerboard to keel.

    If any one can add more information, please feel free to jump in. My guess is Tom List, long time owner of POLARIS, knows more than anyone.
    Last edited by sleddog; 03-01-2021 at 05:40 PM.

  4. #14
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    Feb 2010
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    Alameda, CA
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    Last year before I picked up Pretty Penny, I inquired with my friends in the Master Mariners; Paul Dines and Tom List where Polaris was. She had been sitting at the San Rafael basin for a couple of years. I had always loved the boat. Blown away the first time I saw her in the 1970s on the bay sailed by a darling senior shorthanded couple whom owned her for decades before Tom List. The pumpkin seed hull, the gaff rig, the victorian cabin and cockpit were idealized in a way that brought back history and a connection to the Jack London era. So different from the boats from my childhood sailing in the Canal Zone, summers in Barnegat bay, Kaneohe & Waikiki and the St. Petersburg Y.C. I have always never been truly driven professionally in occupation, more artist/dreamer/adventurer than shipwright or racer. I spent a bunch of time reading, learning and taking programs of apprenticeship in wooden boat construction used in my numerous restorations which I brought from the brink (with the help of Sven Svenson and Myron Spaulding, and many others from the old Richmond boat works including a favorite friend and supporter Patty Henderson to whom much of my passion for wooden sailing vessels was made viable). In an attempt to becoming worthy of a boat like Polaris I worked tirelessly for the MMBA, sitting on its board for several years and still am deeply involved in support of the sponsorship and regatta itself. There were times I tried to make a play for Polaris but were stalled due to lack of insider connections, my youthfulness in comparison, raising a family in the expensive bay area and months of being on the road on news and production assignments.

    Getting back to what was told to me, Paul Dines, staff commodore for the MMBA let me know Polaris was lost two years ago on the rocks and beach near half moon bay when her new inexperienced owner who sought to mover her down the coast. The news saddened me deeply. It was not only a loss to one of the most significant historical San Francisco vessels which i loved but the terminus to a direction long held for my life's path.
    Last edited by Black Jack; 03-02-2021 at 12:32 PM.
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